posted on 03/31/2022 10:09 / updated on 03/31/2022 10:10
(credit: Getty Images)
Russia says it has decided to “drastically reduce” attacks on the cities of Kiev and Chernigov in northern Ukraine.
The move, which is viewed with skepticism by the Ukrainian authorities and their allies, was announced after five weeks of war, in which Russian combat units suffered numerous casualties, being forced to return to Russia and Belarus to reorganize.
Ukrainian counterattacks have pushed Russian troops back and, according to the British Defense Ministry, Russia is having trouble sustaining its operations in several areas. So, apparently, the country decided to concentrate in the east, in the Donbas region, and abandon the objective of besieging and controlling Kiev, the capital.
But what is behind this change in strategy?
The following is an analysis by Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent.
We must not be naive. When Russia says it is going to withdraw from Kiev, it is not a great gesture of goodwill, but because it has taken a step too far. The country has tried to fight this war on three axes: to the south, around Mariupol; to the east, in Donbas; and to the north, around Kiev and Chernigov. And it’s overloaded.
They can continue the peace talks, but ultimately that will be decided by the facts on the ground. And the fact is that the Russians now control about two-thirds of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, from the eastern border with Russia to just before Odessa in the west. It is almost in a position to control Ukraine’s maritime trade.
Military wisely, the Russians are mainly focusing on trying to annihilate the regular Ukrainian army in the east and around Donbas.
If that moment comes, they will say “we have what we want, we are ready to talk about peace now” — and they will try to make Ukraine look very obstructive by not accepting Moscow’s terms. Or they could use victory as a base, turn their attention to Kiev and try to take it.
Kiev is still not safe.
The Ukrainians have managed to keep Russian forces out of Kiev, although they are starting to suffer from artillery. But in the meantime, cities like Chernigov and Kharkiv are being completely destroyed by artillery, rockets and missiles. Unfortunately, there will still be many more civilian deaths in this war.
Ukrainian negotiators have said that they do not want to give up even an inch of Ukrainian territory, and this is one of the reasons why peace talks have not progressed so far, because the positions of Russia and Ukraine are still very far apart.
Ukraine can agree to be a neutral country without nuclear weapons and not be part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But it still wants to join the European Union, it still wants to look west, and Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t want a Western-leaning government in Kiev on its border. He wants at least a neutral East-West, although he prefers a pro-Kremlin one.
There is very likely to be international pressure, particularly from NATO and the US, on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make a deal to end the fighting.
And for Russia, it makes no sense to end this war because there are still more than 100,000 Russian soldiers sitting on the edge of the Ukrainian border, waiting to attack.
How do you guarantee Ukraine’s security without putting NATO forces there, which are unacceptable to Russia? There is a very difficult dilemma there.
If there was someone different in power in the Kremlin, less aggressive than Vladimir Putin, Ukraine would not feel so threatened. And Putin has no intention of relinquishing power. Even if he resigned as president, he would still be in power.
French King Louis XIV said “l’Etat, c’est moi” (“I am the state”). There is no one in Moscow who can challenge Putin in terms of power, not the oligarchs, not the Federal Security Service, not the Ministry of Defense. He is all-powerful.
But Putin must be very upset with the way everything has turned out so far, because he got out of his plans. I think he was misled by his intelligence chiefs, who told him it would be a lot easier.
A leaked report from Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Kremlin-controlled newspaper, showed that there are around 10,000 dead Russian soldiers (they said they were hacked and it was not a genuine report). The Pentagon, which has been fairly conservative in its estimates, put Russian deaths at around 7,000 a week ago. Ukraine says there are 16,000 dead.
The exact numbers are probably somewhere in between. That’s almost the same number of soldiers that the Soviet Union lost in 10 years of fighting in Afghanistan (1979-1989), a very high casualty rate.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday (30/03) that Mariupol should surrender. They want complete control of the land route between Crimea and Donbas. Mariupol stood in the way of this and was strongly defended. There is probably still some resistance, but Russian forces are already in most of the city.
What’s left of it isn’t worth keeping, it’s just wreckage.
Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said days ago that Putin’s plan is to split Ukraine in two, as happened with Korea, but there would be no boundary as clear as the straight line that separates North Korea from Korea. southern.
Most likely it is an uneven and fragile disputed line, depending on where the troops are, in southern and southeastern Ukraine, a bit in the east around Donbas and possibly some stretches in the north.
But this will be unacceptable to the Ukrainian government. They fought hard, they made the Russians back in some places, they won’t give up territory — which is why, unfortunately, Russia will continue to supply weapons to its troops, NATO will continue to supply weapons to the Ukrainians, and this fight will Continue.
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